Testimonies / Engineers: James C. Rakestraw, PE, CFM
I am a convert from evolution to the literal view of creation and the flood. My education and experience in geological engineering as well as hydrology and hydraulics has reinforced my belief in the literal view of creation and the Flood. I became a Christian while serving in the Army at Fort Belvior, Virginia. However, God started His work long before. An old school friend who had become a Christian shared his testimony with me when I was a freshman at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan. His testimony and changed life so interested me, that I started to read the Bible. I became convinced of my sinfulness as I read such passages as I Corinthians 6:9-11 and James 4:17.
I graduated from Tech with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Geological Engineering, and started working as a junior geologist at the Eagle Mine of the New Jersey Zinc Company at Gilman, Colorado. I will always treasure this experience. The mine was located about 25 miles north of Leadville in a deep canyon of the Eagle River. Near the bottom of the canyon, there is an exposure of the Great Unconformity. Above the metamorphic basement rocks, there is approximately 200-foot layer of white Sawatch Quartzite. Above the Sawatch Quartzite were more pancake like layers of sedimentary rocks. From these, the Eagle Mine produced over a quarter billion dollars worth of zinc, lead, copper, silver and gold over its productive life span. Seeing the Great Unconformity first hand plants doubts about uniformitarianism. How does a uniform process produce something that is unconforming?
My geology career was cut short by my “call of duty” first to the Army Engineer School at Fort Belvior, Virginia and later to Viet Nam. A friend in the Navigators ministry shared the gospel with me and I trusted Christ in September 1969. A few months later, I was on my way to “Nam”. The Navigators built some good habits in me and I will always be grateful for their Bible study and Scripture memory program. Before becoming a Christian, I believed in evolution. After becoming a Christian, I believed in theistic evolution. I felt embarrassed for and embarrassed by those who believed in a literal creation.
While in “Nam”, I decided that, my first priority upon returning would be to get some training in the Christian life. I returned to the Washington D.C. area and was involved with the “Navs” for a couple of years. I took a new career direction into civil engineering with an emphasis in land development engineering. This later progressed into an emphasis of stormwater engineering and floodplain management.
My studies of the Bible gradually lead me into reformed teaching. I joined a Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) congregation in the early 1980’s, met my wife, Deborah, got married and became a father. I was able to find answers to life’s questions in the Bible. However, there was one area that I had no answers – that was the question of creation. As a single person, I was able to separate my belief in the inerrant word of God and my belief in theistic evolution. I began to wonder what I would teach our children about creation and if my approach to the subject would make sense to them. This became an area of prayer.
God answered this prayer when we moved to Fredericksburg, Virginia and I attended a Sunday school class at New City Fellowship (PCA). This class was on the Genesis flood and it offered a very reasonable description of a global flood. For the first time in my Christian life, I was open to the idea of a literal creation and a global flood. Shortly after the class, I read The Genesis Flood by Dr. John C. Whitcomb and Dr. Henry M. Morris. From that point, I have held the literal view of creation.
A pastor challenged me to study various other views of creation such as the Day-Age Interpretation, and Framework Interpretation and I did. Later, I studied the writings of evangelicals who believe in theistic evolution. Although at first glance, these alternative views may seem to harmonize scripture with science. However, none really does. Every proposed “solution” generates far greater problems than it “solves”.
As I studied the other views of creation, I was surprised to find a deep hostility to the literal view of creation expressed by some evangelical Christians. Some expressed the opinion that the literal view of creation is an obstacle to unbelievers coming to faith in Christ. Some evangelical Christians have compared the church’s historic view of creation with the Galatians’ error and Gnosticism.
The recently published report by the PCA has been a stabilizing influence in the creation discussion. It reflects a temperate tone and scholarly research that is missing in much of the creation discussion. These documents are a solid foundation for studying the various views of creation and deserve to be circulated the widest extent possible.
Jim Rakestraw is a licensed Professional Engineering (PE) and a Certified Floodplain Manager (CFM). Jim works in stormwater management and floodplain management. He has served as a director and as president of the Virginia Floodplain Management Association (VFMA).
Jim is married to Deborah and they have nine children. Jim and Deborah are members of Evident Grace Fellowship, a PCA congregation located near Fredericksburg, Virginia. Jim’s other interests include geology, mining, and scripophily.